Regina Spektor has spent much of the past decade perfecting an oddly lovely mix of sweet melodies, piano-driven pop, flashes of experimentalism, and cheery but wistful ruminations on love and heartache. But Spektor writes and performs with the passion of punk, and her otherwise innocent story-songs take unconventional turns.
In "Fidelity," from 2006's Begin To Hope, Spektor pairs lightly plucked strings with hip-hop rhythms while hinting at darker themes of masochism and madness. In "Don't Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)," from her new album What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, she works quirky electronics and reggae horns into the mix while singing gleefully about desperate drunks and failed dreams. Through it all, Spektor takes her enchanting voice in fresh directions — she can transform a lilt into a growl in a matter of seconds.
For a special live concert at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, recorded on Thursday, May 31, Spektor stripped down the richly orchestrated songs on What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, joined only by an additional keyboardist, a cellist and a drummer. In addition to a live video webcast on NPR Music, the concert was broadcast on public radio stations WFUV in New York and WXPN in Philadelphia, with the help of World Cafe host David Dye and WFUV music director Rita Houston.